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Introducing the Check-in, a tool for better brain health

Since Alzheimer’s Research UK first launched the Think Brain Health campaign in early 2021 – delayed by the pandemic – we have been driven by a clear vision, informed by a pivotal piece of research.

In 2020, the Lancet Commission on Dementia was re-convened, following an initial sitting in 2017, to review the best available evidence and produce recommendations on how to best manage, or even prevent, dementia across the population. Alzheimer’s Research UK helped to fund the commission, which was led by Prof Gill Livingstone.

The commission identified twelve potentially modifiable health and lifestyle factors from different phases of life that, if eliminated, might prevent dementia. In fact, if all of these factors could be successfully acted upon across the population, we might see an extraordinary 40% reduction in dementia cases. What an opportunity.

We don’t live in a perfect world, far from it, and acting on all the insights from the Commission is hampered in reality by health inequalities and the choices, or lack of them, that often play out in the real world. Social and economic circumstances give us a dose of realism and make the 40% feel harder to grasp.

If we are to strive to realise any of this preventative potential, it will take a multilateral effort that comes through empowering the public with knowledge and support to act, through policy and system change, and through further research to sharpen our understanding and interventions. It’s worth it – even realising 1% of the potentially avoidable cases would mean around 10,000 people in the UK, and their families, would not endure the heartbreak of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is working across all those fronts, the centrepiece being our Think Brain Health campaign, a positive drive towards lifelong good brain health and dementia risk reduction in later life. Our next big step for Think Brain Health is the release of the ‘Check-in’, a simple, user-friendly tool allowing anyone to take a look at their current health and lifestyle to see if they could change anything up to be better to their brain.

The ten-minute Check-in was developed in direct response to earlier phases of the Think Brain Health campaign. We saw that public appetite for brain health was high, with over a million people having visited our online hub since launch. But consistent feedback indicated that the public wanted more specific pointers about their own brain health and what they could change for positive benefit. The Check-in delivers against this demand.

While we are optimistic that the Check-in will prove beneficial for thousands around the country in supporting them with knowledge and action for better brain health, we are still in the foothills of this campaign. With brain health itself being a relatively new concept, we have work to do to establish it and the knowledge that sits under it.

We also have to make sure that the message of Think Brain Health is accessible and inclusive as possible for everyone in the UK, so we’ll be looking at ways to help take the campaign, and the Check-in, to underserved communities as far as our resources allow us.

Sadly, there’s no sure-fire way to prevent dementia yet, because age and genetics also play a role, and so work continues at pace in the lab to find treatment answers that can change and save lives. But meanwhile, taking care of our brains can at least help stack the odds in our favour. And any case of dementia avoided represents an individual and a family who avoid the profound heartbreak of the condition. It’s time to Check-in.

About the author

Hilary Evans

Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Research UK

Hilary is Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which is a charity working at a global level towards a world where people are free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. The organisation’s aim is to raise awareness of the diseases that cause dementia, to increase dementia research funding and improve the environment for dementia scientists in the UK and internationally.

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